Trainer without TV. A day without contrast.

Sported the Vaytanium this morning, for a metric century, mostly gravel, with a few of my homies.  Illinois is, as one of them said, a very boring place to live.  I likened today, with its overcast skies and complete lack of contrast, as being akin to riding a trainer without the television.  Yup.  It’s that exciting.

This morning’s metric did remind me that in just a few weeks, I have the NCC Gravel Metric coming up.  I’ve spent all winter doing 90 minute – 2 hour rides.  I’ve gotten much stronger and faster.  And for the first 35 miles this morning, I felt pretty darn strong.  By mile 45, I was starting to crack.  By mile 55, I was looking forward to the end of the ride–something I don’t ordinarily do.  Granted, I did go out riding a bit harder than I should have…had I thought about riding 50 miles (the original plan), I would have paced a bit better.  The en-route decision to go 60 just compounded my decision.  I needed this morning–it gave me some encouragement to get out and do some longer rides and get my endurance legs back soon.

Tomorrow is the day for the big news reveal on RATG.  Tune in then.


Big Changes a Comin’

It’s not that I’m not riding.  I’m riding a ton.  I just haven’t had time to post a lot.

There’s some big changes underfoot.  Details this weekend.  Big changes.  The Vaytanium and Schweet Mukluk are involved.

For now, I’ll just leave you with this sweet picture of riser bars on an aero Cervelo…

Remember…just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

2012 Barry Roubaix on Fatbikes

Yesterday, I rode in the Barry Roubaix.  On the Schweet Mukluk.  Details and pics to follow.

Introductory note: I’ve come to realize that cycling is, for me, often about friendships.  As we were riding home after the Barry yesterday, Chad and I were talking about all of the amazing things that have happened in the previous 365 days.  How we were much stronger riders, much better friends…how our circle of friends had grown.  Most of the pictures below come from Anna, the wife of Big Paul (from the School of Spearfish trip)…Paul, Chad and I all rode in the Barry.  All on fat bikes.  All from North Central Cyclery.  So many thanks to Anna for her photojournalism.  And thanks to my friends for all of the great rides and great memories over the past year.

Ok…warm and cozies aside.  Let’s talk bikes.

Chad and I loaded up the official vehicle of RATG with a couple of fatties, and headed east to Michigan.

I monitored the rear-view to make sure that the bikes were hangin’ in.


We hit torrential downpours on the way to Michigan, and had dinner at a wonderful local restaurant Denny’s.

We then proceeded to the Kalamazoo Red Roof Inn.  Sleep was had.

In the morning, we rolled out early and, fueled by some of my wife’s great gluten/dairy free apple muffins and hard-boiled eggs, headed north to the race.  For travelers from the south/east/west, Kalamazoo was a great spot to stop.  We were about 40 minutes out from the race in the morning, and it was an easy/pleasant drive.  For some odd reason, I found an amazingly perfect parking spot, right by registration and the start/finish line.

We set up the RATG tool stand, and prepped for the race.

That’s my Schweet Mukluk, Chad’s OG-style Mukluk with hydro brakes and a few tasty upgrades, and Paul’s Necromancer.  We used the bike rack as our work stand, and got everything tuned for the race.  We even staged a “finish line” picture.

Then, we headed off into the race.

I took a few pics during the first mile of the race, and then put my camera away to focus on riding.

The peloton:

The Chad:

Yours truly, haulin’ the mail, and smiling all the way:

Leading the pack:

Chad and I were pretty much neck and neck at the finish, and Paul was right on our tails.

Chad did his best Captain Morgan impression.


And the aftermath…

Apologies for lame parking lot pics.

Race review comments:

Race was awesome.  36 miles, 2040 feet of climbing.  I averaged 15.6mph according to Barry-Roubaix timed race results, and 15.5 on my GPS (which I started just before the start).

Top speed of 36mph.  On a fatbike.  With Big Fat Larrys.  (uh-huh).

The course was very well marked and well planned.  At every road crossing, there were police controlling traffic–I didn’t have to stop a single time, at any road crossing.  The route was also very fun and challenging.  I’m glad that the Fatbike category was 36 miles…had it been 62 miles, it would have been really, really killer with the sand and climbing.

What Went Right:

Bike prep was spot-on.  I was running 15psi up front and 18psi in the rear–and with BFLs, that was about perfect.  The Loop bars were also perfect…on numerous occasions, I would “get aero” by grabbing the front loop with my arms close together, and getting into a tuck.  With as upright as the riding position is on my Muk, getting into a tuck really, really helps.  I highly recommend the loops…or heck, even some aero bars.  I had a ton of compliments from other riders, during the race, about how well the Muk was outfitted, and what a cool bike it is–kudos to NCC for the awesome parts spec.  It was perfect for the race.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  If you don’t want Loop bars, you can get in the drops like Chad.

With the routes that were set for the race, I decided to leave my spare tube, pump and tools back at the car.  That was a good idea as well…they add a few pounds to the bike, and not having those extra pounds was appreciated on the ride, with the climbing.

My training for the past year has also helped.  A lot of the gonzo rides that we do (B-roads, mud, 50 mile fatbike rallys, etc….they all totally prepared me for this ride.  There were a lot of areas on the sandy paths that had huge water puddles (6-12″ deep) in the middle, with bypasses around the side.  Sometimes, the bypasses were faster…and sometimes, bombing through the middle of the puddle was faster…much to the chagrin of one fellow rider in a very lovely white jersey who was splashed by muddy water spraying off of my BFL.  (Sorry.  But it is a gravel race).  But I knew exactly how the Muk would handle in sand, mud, water, gravel, and road.  I could push it into a loose gravel corner and know how the BFLs would respond.  I was ready for the race.

I’m also happy with my pace.  I could not have ridden faster–this was full out for me, for this ride.  I finished and felt as if I had not held anything back…I had given it my all.  I finished in the top 10 in my category (ok…a field of 20-something fat bikes…but still.  They were hauling), and was very pleased with that result.

Incidentally, I was very surprised by how competitive the 3 of us were with the skinny tire cross bikes around us.  On the road and climbs, I expected to be dropped like a rock.  Not so…for the most part, we hung on.  The last 2-3 miles of the race were on pavement, where the cross bikes should have left us in the dust.  But at that point, the riders must have been tired–we hung on, and passed many.  Yes–fatbikes on asphalt, passing cross bikes.  I even held out for a sprint across the finish.  I do wish I had a picture of that, but I don’t (at this point).  (Anyone…anyone??)  It was really fun to see someone on a cross bike, and then rumble up behind them on BFLs.  I had a couple racers think I was a car as I was approaching.  (Insert smiley emoticon here).

Other riders were very friendly and supportive–that was also great and much appreciated…and rider support was everywhere.  I accomplished my goal of riding my race.  Once the race started, I only unclipped one time (to stop when a rider fell in front of me in the sand).  I did not stop for any other reason.  I did not accept any outside support, or even food or water at the rest stations…just rolled past.  I focused on riding at my optimal pace, regardless of other riders.

On that note, riding a fatbike in a field that was predominantly skinny tired cross bikes was fun.  They had no idea or expectation as to what I should be doing/how fast I should be riding…it didn’t feel like a competition or direct comparison between my riding and theirs.  I was able to ride my race.

And of course, in the sand, mud, etc., the Muk killed.  Ki-LL-ed.

What I can do better:

I need to manage my eating better.  For the first 20 miles, I didn’t eat anything.  I genuinely believe that had I started fueling a bit earlier, I would have ridden stronger.  Thanks to Chad for asking if I had taken any calories in–he reminded me to keep it together.

I also need to get to the front of the pack before the start.  More on that below.

What Barry Roubaix can do better:

Again–the ride was really well organized, and there are very, very few things for me to gripe about.  These are intended purely as constructive criticisms to make a great race even better.

  1. Let fat bikes start in their own ‘mini-group’.  We started in wave 4…everyone hung together for the first few miles of pavement, and then immediately turned into gravel and sand, for a good climb.  That was an area the Mukluks should have shined…but there were cross bikes stacked up in front of us, constantly wiping out and walking, and we slowed to a crawl.  If we had started as “3B”, between 3 and 4, I think we would have had a much better ride in the sand, would have cleared it several times faster, and would have had more fun.  The sand is one area where the fat bikes have a clear advantage over skinny bikes…but we couldn’t exploit it because of the backup of skinnies.
  2. Walkers to the right.  Everywhere there was mud or sand, many riders would lose it, and start walking…everywhere.  They would walk 3-4 abreast, leaving no clear line for riders to pass.  BR should pass and enforce a rule that walkers on the course have to ride to the far right, regardless of terrain, and leave a clear path open to the left for riders to use.
  3. Ban cars on the sand sections.  It is completely inexplicable to me, but there were spectators who had driven a Jeep and a Subaru down one of the sand paths, nearly getting stuck, and causing a complete biker bottleneck.  This wasn’t a road, and wasn’t someone doing something official…it was spectators being unreasonable.  And instead of waiting for riders to get through, the cars completely blocked the path.  Anyone who was around me at that time may remember me shouting, at the top of my lungs, for the cars to get out of the way so the bikes could get through.  Again…fatbike opportunity to haul through a sandy spot was impeded.  B-R did a great job of having support staff at every entrance to the sandy areas…I would suggest that they work with local government and get permission to block car traffic on the sandy stretches during the race.  (There were no driveways or private property that would be blocked/impeded by such actions.)

That’s it.  Just those changes.  Suggested changes.

Overall…ride was awesome, fatbike category is where it’s at, and I had a great, awesome, splendiferous day.  Keep riding.

Does Not Compute…

Every once in a while, I see a bike build that does not compute.  Like the one I’m going to post about below.

Start with a Niner A9C (AirNinerCarbon).  Beautiful carbon frame, designed with eccentric bottom bracket (EBB) and single speed use in mind.  Hardtail.  Great for a light buildup.

Then, add a carbon Lefty.  Sounds niiiiice.

Then, add some really lightweight ENVE wheels.  Sounds sweet.

Build it up with a single speed drivetrain to make it really lightweight…

And then ignore the EBB, throw on a funky/chunky 2 pulley idler system, flat pedals and bald tires.

Apparently, the flat pedals are so that it can be used as a commuter.  ??

The build is supposed to be 18 pounds as it sits.  Build details are here, and pics are from singleninerspeed on MTBR.

If you put a good set of clipless pedals on, ran an EBB and ditched the crazy tensioner system, upgraded the cranks…you could probably drop close to a pound of weight.  And even if you accept the premise of using this bike as a commuter and kept the flat pedals…why would you possibly use that drivetrain system?  Niner advertises the bike as being designed to be EBB compatible.  Why would you use something more complicated, more prone to breakage or damage, heavier, more susceptible to dirt/mud, and less aesthetically pleasing?

It’s a beautiful bike in many regards…but when I get down to a couple build details, I just shake my head.  Does not compute.

Separately, it will be 74 degrees and clear at 7pm tonight.  Sounds like perfect conditions to blast some gravel and get ready for Saturday’s Barry Roubaix.

Exponential (15,000 Views).

We seem to have hit some sort of tipping point.

Back on 2/24, I had blogged about reaching 10,000 views.  Those 10,000 views came over the course of 3 months.  Now, in just over 3 weeks, we’re closing on 15,000 views–and we’ll be over that today.  Heck, there have been almost 200 hits by 11am, CST.

What do I think about that?  I think people want to read detailed product reviews and fun product reports, just like I do.  I don’t think I’m in any danger of becoming Bike Snob New York any time soon…heck, I’m not even in danger of becoming Guitar Ted or Vik.  But nonetheless, it’s pretty nifty.

Expect more of the same.  You’ve been warned.

I’ll see my blog, and raise myself one blog.


The Gravel Metric - presented by AXLETREE.

We went out on a little spy mission to make sure our route changes were legit last Saturday.
The changes we made have cut out a tiny bit of pavement and added a mile of grass “road” on the far west end of Gurler.
We had a fun crew, which, combined with the creepy good weather and high spirits, made for a perfect Saturday morning.

Dan started at NCC a few weeks ago and has joined us the last two Saturdays to grind gravel. He found a great spot to put a GM rest stop (Band-aids and Wild Turkey) and marked it as our territory.

We were out to make sure Woodlawn was a solid bridge from the gravel north of 38 to the mud and whatnot south of 38. It will be a better route than last year – we’ll dodge the landfill this way. We also wanted to…

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Dummy Date: Trek FX 7.4 WSD Review.

Just a quickie on my wife’s Trek 7.4 WSD.

Yesterday morning, we loaded our daughter on the Big Dummy, and did a little Dummy Date to the park.

I took the opportunity to snap a few pics of her Trek FX 7.4 WSD.

Back in the day, my wife had the normal assortment of department store bikes.  She also had a (surprisingly nice) Schwinn Moab hardtail mountain bike.  The bad part of that bike was that it put too much pressure on her wrists.  Despite the fact that she’s amazingly strong and fit, my wife has some physical issues–wrists, neck, hips, back and ankles.  Oh, and feet.  So pretty much everything.  But she’s really tough, and doesn’t let these issues slow her down.  (She’s a big inspiration to me as I try to deal with my own health issues).

Anyhow, the MTB had her in a traditional mountain bike position, which put a lot of pressure on her wrists.  After college, we sold that bike, and she was bikeless for years.  A few years ago, when I started riding more, we got her a Trek Pure low step sport…if you’ve not seen those, they have a crank that is set forward of the seatpost…so you can put your feet flat on the ground with the seat adjusted at a position that allows you to pedal comfortably.  I thought it would be a good option for her, to give a very upright riding position and good comfort.  As it turned out, not so much.  It was unreasonably heavy, slow, handled like a school bus, and frankly, was ugly.  So the hunt was on for a replacement.

I talked to Tobie at North Central Cyclery and gave a wishlist.  Light, reasonably sporty/fast, comfortable handling, reasonably compliant over bumps and cracks, comfortable, but not aggressive, straight bar riding position, good range of gears, reliable components, not ugly.  He suggested the FX–and after a test ride, Dana was thrilled.

This is a stock build, with the exception of a replacement saddle (still looking for the perfect saddle), some Bontrager Satellite bars (very, very comfortable), my favorite Ergon grips (in cork…nice aesthetic)…

The great pedals (nice and long…so she can ride in flip-flops or soft shoes without foot discomfort) are shown below:

Stock, it has an aluminum frame, a mix of Shimano drivetrain parts (Deore rear/Acera front derailleurs, 3×9, wide gear range and options for just about any condition you’ll encounter), linear pull brakes, carbon fork:

And 700x32c wheels/tires.  It’s a very nice, appropriate parts spec.  The aluminum frame keeps it light, and the carbon fork really helps with both weight and ride quality (the ride quality difference between this carbon fork and the aluminum fork on lower FXs is surprising).  The 700x32c tires are skinny/light enough to be fast, and high volume enough to take the edge off of bumps.  Really, it’s the perfect bike for an occasional biker in suburbia.  If you wanted to really hammer on it, it’s reasonably responsive.  Pushed to the limits, the geometry holds you back more than the wheels/tires.  It will ride on gravel, but will not be thrilled about it.  The handling is conservative, to say the least.  It’s happiest on pavement, limestone, or other reasonably smooth surfaces.  With its stable geometry, I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to throw a rack on.

Oh, and I’m told that the color is cute.

The 7.4 is a sweet spot in the FX lineup.  Lower in the lineup, the bikes get unreasonably heavy, much more ponderous wheels/tires, questionable components, etc.  The FX 7.5 offers minimal upgrade for an extra $200-ish–It gets a more roady drivetrain.  The FX 7.5 Disc makes sense for a lot of riders or heavy use, but just adds more weight for my wife’s purposes (and an extra $150 over the regular 7.5).  And the 7.6 is really a straight bar roadie, with 700x25c tires and appropriate wheels…for $300 more than the 7.5 Disc.  (Note…I had an FX 7.6 as my first “road” bike, and quickly found the straight bars to be incredibly limiting on rides longer than 10-15 miles, and incredibly annoying on rides into the wind because there was no ‘getting into the drops’.  It was a good transition bike for someone just getting into road riding, but was really limited in what it could do.)

In short, the Trek FX 7.4 is a great bike for suburban riders looking for something sporty but not punishing, comfortable but not ponderous.